Category Archives: Lampshades

The Right Lampshade For Every Lamp #2: Specifics About Size & Shape


“Honey, I shrank the lampshade!”

This sounds a lot like “the dog ate my homework”.

It’s no excuse.


When a lampshade is the wrong size, you just know it, even if you can’t put your finger on exactly why. Which isn’t to say that lampshade size relative to lamp size can’t be played with. There are many stylish examples to be found where the proportions have been tweaked with a terrific look.

When in doubt, keep it simple.

Shade ShapeThe principle of relatedness applies. A lamp with a round base calls for a round lampshade and a square or angular base will look best with a square or rectangular shade. One exception to this is if a square based lamp is to sit on a round table. In this case, it will work to have a round shade relating to the round table top. The shape of the shade will also affect how close the lamp can sit next to a wall or other furniture.

Size It Up – There are four measurements to consider when selecting a shade. They are the top diameter, bottom diameter, side length along the slope, and the drop, which is the vertical distance the shade washer is from the bottom edge of the shade. The harp is the curved metal piece that rises from two opposing sides of the lamp and comes together at the top to provide a mount for the shade. The drop determines the length of the harp.

Shade Height – The aesthetic goal is to balance size between the lamp and shade so that the duo will look neither bottom nor top heavy when viewed from a distance of about twenty feet. A good rule of thumb is to choose a lampshade that’s two-thirds the height of the base. Fringe/tassels/beads are not considered as part of the overall height measurement.

The correct shade height is also critical because the shade should cover the bulb without covering the lamp base. It should also be long enough so that none of the hardware, such as the harp or the neck (the metal piece between the base and the bottom of the harp), is exposed. Aim for the lower edge of the shade to be about two inches below the bottom of the socket assembly. The right size harp will insure the proper proportion.

Bottom Of Shade Diameter – A lampshade that’s too small is faintly reminiscent of high water trousers: not a good look. Your shade should be at least a half-inch wider than the widest point of the base on all sides. By the same token, a shade too big will put you at risk for knocking the lamp over every time you pass by. Though there are circumstances when a shade for a large lamp is more than a standard seventeen to twenty inches in diameter, use a critical eye for any measurement more than this to ensure the shade doesn’t look just plain too big and out of scale.

One reliable method to assess proper size is to measure the height of the lamp from base to stem, without the harp. Use that height number, plus or minus two inches as the diameter for the shade bottom. For example, if the lamp measures sixteen inches, then the bottom diameter of the shade could range from fourteen to eighteen inches.

Floor lamps require bigger shades to address the added height. The diameter of the shade is determined by the diameter of the base, plus approximately eight inches. The equation of lampshade height as two-thirds the lamp base height clearly won’t work in this instance as it would for a table lamp. A shade height in the range of ten to thirteen inches for a bottom shade diameter of approximately nineteen inches is a good example of proportion.

In the end, it’s all about the small details that contribute to the overall look of a room (and home) that’s been well considered.

A well considered home is one of the most reliable routes to that sense of well being that says, “it’s good to be HOME.”
Related Posts

(The Right Lampshade For Every Lamp Two Part Series)

The Right Lampshade For Every Lamp #1: A Few Considerations


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The original version of this article was published on It’s represented here as a foundation for further topic discussions and updates.